Interview: Pierce the Veil

Pierce The Veil Logo

If you haven’t heard of Pierce The Veil, it’s only a matter of time before this band cements itself as one of rock music’s premier acts. Hailing from San Diego, this four-pierce symbolizes the purest sense of determination — they’re a group of friends that formed a band together with hopes of achieving their musical dreams. Harkening back to the late 2000s, they stayed committed to one another and trudged along in the tiniest clubs before they became a legit headliner at major festivals like the Vans Warped Tour.

Instead of handcuffing themselves to a specific scene, Pierce The Veil merges different shades of punk rock, heavy metal, and alternative into an addicting display of melodic angst. Following the release of their breakthrough album Collide With The Sky, this California act made significant leaps forward in expanding their eclectic repertoire and borderline progressive musical interludes. Even in today’s saturated music industry where a majority of rock acts are continually disregarded, Pierce The Veil shuns the pathetic stereotype that ‘rock is dead’ even when the prospects look extremely bleak.

The most challenging risk for most bands is writing a high-quality album after receiving such widespread approval from fans and critics alike. In most cases, the deadly combination of increased finances and exposure causes most bands to fall apart due to unrealistic expectations. However, a majority of bands fail to demonstrate the work ethic and professionalism of Pierce The Veil. For the past few months, this group reconvened in Long Island where they spent days-on-end perfecting every little nuance of their upcoming album. Rather than fall apart from the pressure, Pierce The Veil welcomed the challenge of creating their best material to-date.

On the cusps of a co-headlining tour with Sleeping With Sirens, Pierce The Veil will perform on November 20th at the Pine Belt Arena in Toms River, New Jersey. In an exclusive interview with Pop-Break, I spoke with bassist Jaime Preciado for an in-depth conversation regarding Pierce The Veil’s highly anticipated fourth studio LP.

Pierce The Veil - Fall, 2013

Starting off, fill us in on the recording process behind Pierce The Veil’s latest album. From what I understand, the instrumental section was all tracked and Vic was recently finishing up his vocals. Is the album officially complete as of right now?

It’s definitely getting close, the whole band was there for two and half/three months finishing up all of the songs. The main thing was making sure the songs sounded good in our eyes. We always try to push ourselves with each record to improve from our last record. We’ll joke around and listen to our older records and say, ‘What were we thinking?’ We need to do that and we need to make mistakes in order to get better and learn from our past. We’re just trying to become better as a band and as musicians. With this record, this is our fourth record and we went up to Long Island to record with Dan Korneff who actually produced our third record Collide With The Sky. Right off the bat, going into this fourth record was more comfortable than our previous records just because we worked with Dan before. With every record, we always had somebody new and we would ask ourselves, ‘Is this guy going to be cool? Is this guy going to work?’ We already dealt with those sorts of things. We went in knowing how Dan worked and he knew each of us individually and understood our strengths. He knew how to take advantage of all that just like he did on the last record. It was a lot of fun. For the first three weeks, we set up a little pow wow jam circle with all of our instruments and we started jamming each part and each song in a million different ways and we tried every possible way to create the best song possible.

CollidewiththeSkycover

After developing such strong chemistry with Dan Korneff on the last record, what kind of ideas did he bring to the table for this record? What was the best advice or most difficult challenge that he provided in terms of improving your sound?

I think a lot of it relates to him knowing each of us individually. Let’s say we had some riffs and we added a new part to that riff or we had a song skeleton and we added bits and pieces to that song, his main advice was, ‘Keep it entertaining.’ He would say, ‘You guys could write a ten-minute song but the length won’t matter as long as it’s entertaining the entire way.’ He never really contained or confined us into one little area. He was never like, ‘You guys have to make a rock song or turn this into a pop song.’ He would just say, ‘Make whatever is right for that part but make sure it’s entertaining.’ In his words, we tried really hard to make each song exciting and entertaining. It helped us because sometimes when you’re in the studio working on a song, you kind of forget why you’re writing the song and where you’ll be playing the song. That song is going to be played at a show in front of a bunch of fans. He starts taking those things into account like, ‘Oh, this bouncy part would be great to make fans jump.’ You start bringing those aspects into the equation and we didn’t really take that into account on our older records. In the back of our minds, it also helps us create something that works well live.

What were you personally looking to accomplish on this record? How does the new material either balance or separate itself from your previous records?

We always try to branch out and luckily for us, we were never just a one-sided band. We were never just a pop band or punk rock band. We could go all over the place and we could have some really fast songs here, some slow songs there, or even a few breakdowns. We could go anywhere we want. On the last record, we joked around with Dan and said, ‘If there’s anything you ever wanted to do on a record, this is the record.’ And this album is no exception to that whether it’s the tones or song structures. At the end of the day, this will still be a Pierce The Veil record. We have always been fans of bands that progressed slowly and gradually and not where one record has it’s own sound and the next record sounds like a completely different band. It takes time to evolve.

Was there a balance between holding onto the core essence of your sound and satisfying your own creative ambitions?

LEFT TO RIGHT:  Tony Perry, Vic Fuentes, Mike Fuentes, Jaime Preciado
LEFT TO RIGHT: Tony Perry, Vic Fuentes, Mike Fuentes, Jaime Preciado

With every record, there’s always going to be a balance. Going into this record, we don’t want to just write that one single, we want to write a complete record. It’s not like, ‘Hey, let’s make these two songs the singles and the rest of the record filler.’ I know there was a lot of talk in the beginning where people were saying how this record could be our radio album. There will always be people trying to figure out what this record is going to sound like and we use that as fuel to write a complete record. At the end of the day, we just want to write good songs that are fun to play live.

It might seem miniscule to outsiders but talk about getting away from San Diego and recording your last two albums album in completely different environments on the east coast. Collide With The Sky was actually recorded here in Jersey…

We’ve had experiences where we recorded in LA and going away to the east coast and cutting ourselves off from everyone helped us. Like you said, when we were in New Jersey for Collide With The Sky, we lived in this little hotel kind of thing. With this record, we literally lived at the studio and I’m not even saying that we lived there emotionally or something. I’m saying that our beds were upstairs from the studio and we would walk downstairs to record. It was good for us to always be there. Like you said, we could work on something till whenever even though there was never closed sessions. The only times we left were to eat and those times allowed us to gain some perspective. We were actually living next to an industrial park near every cemetery known to man (Laughs). It was such a weird area but it was a cool experience because it was just the four of us. A lot of bands like to escape for a second but we like being engulfed in the studio vibe.

Going off my last question, this doesn’t seem like a band that gets too distracted. You guys truly maximize the studio time…

L-R:  SWS's Justin Hills, Nick Martin, Gabe Barham, Kellin Quinn, and Jack Fowler; PTV's Jaime Preciado, Vic Fuentes, Tony Perry, Mike Fuentes
L-R: SWS’s Justin Hills, Nick Martin, Gabe Barham, Kellin Quinn, and Jack Fowler; PTV’s Jaime Preciado, Vic Fuentes, Tony Perry, Mike Fuentes

We know we aren’t the fastest writers on earth and we like to take our time, which is another way of saying we’re slow (Laughs). We try to exhaust every possibility for every song and that takes time. You also want to take little five-minute breaks to hear what’s going on because you get so into it. You’re absorbed in the process so much that you forget what sounds cool so you need little breaks to evaluate what you’re doing. I think we found our vibe for when we record and it turned out to be a really cool experience.

Describe the transition of becoming a headlining act. I’m looking at the dates for your upcoming tour with Sleeping With Sirens and your band is actually scheduled to perform in a few arenas and your club dates include two-night stints just to meet the demand.

Is it surprising? Absolutely. I look at some of the venues and I say to myself, ‘Wow, this is crazy.’ I think it’s good for us. We always push ourselves in the studio, on stage, and towards whatever we’re working on whether it’s merch designs or stage production. We do whatever we can to make our shows are exciting just because we were those kids in the crowd and that used to be us. We used to see some our favorite bands put on awesome shows and we saw some bands that we really liked put on terrible shows. You kind of learn from those bands and you also learn from your experiences. I honestly never thought the band could play these rooms, especially if you would have asked me five-years ago. I’m not going to stop and we’re not going to stop. We want to keep growing to see where this could actually take us. I tell a lot of people that we want to be the biggest band that we could possibly be but I don’t want it to be tomorrow. I want to work for it and we have every day of the year to work. We’re not one of those bands that want to become huge all of a sudden and disappear a couple years later. I rather we take our time.

Since this band is constantly on the road, do you still get a chance to check out some of your favorite bands and absorb certain aspects of their show into your own repertoire?

Pierce The Veil Group

If there is any opportunity to check out and see a show, we always try to take advantage of that. Like I said earlier, we push ourselves for the shows but I’m not even just talking about us physically playing the show. I’m also talking about putting a tour together that’s just a good show by bringing out some opening bands that we think have tons of potential. From the beginning to the end, all of the bands on the bill are great in their own way. On our first leg of the tour, we’re bringing out Beartooth and This Wild Life – two bands on the complete opposite side of the spectrum. We love to watch those bands and we’ll learn from them as well. They all bring something to the table and I think having a complete package makes a great tour so we always tried to accomplish that with everyone of our tours.

You guys documented a major shift in your career with This Is A Wasteland right as you began to skyrocket in popularity. Talk about this group’s collective effort to showcase the real sides of your personality. This fan base not only enjoys your music but they appreciate your band on a personal level.

I think when we were making the documentary; we didn’t really know what to expect. It wasn’t like we were filming something we’ve done beforehand. We were traveling to a bunch of different places that we’ve never been too so we were just as green as the viewer. What you were seeing was what we were seeing at the same time. I think that’s why it turned out the way it did because it was real. It wasn’t this fake produced film, it was our Go-Pro [camera] filming at all times and seeing our expressions when we traveled to Southeast Asia, South America, and other places that we never been. These were all places that we wanted to see but we never had a chance to do it. I think that’s what makes the video special because it’s so honest.

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I noticed how you were in college and working a full-time job with 401k before you toured with Pierce The Veil. Talk about your initial decision to leave school and work behind in order to pursue your dream as a musician?

I have always been a musician since I was young. I started with the school band and I was the trumpet player and that’s where I learned how to play music. It was just one of those things I understood. Some people get math or English because it’s easy for them. For me, it was music because I felt comfortable in that realm. I worked a full-time job and it was something I had to do. Looking back, I took a chance and the reason why is because the band [Pierce The Veil] sat down and all of us had to make that kind of decision at the same time. We had this sort of impromptu and all-in kind of meeting where we said to each other, ‘If you’re in, I’m in This is what we’re going to do and we’re going to bust our asses to do this.’ For the first five-years being in the band, it wasn’t an easy thing and tons of sacrifices were made and a lot of Chef Boyardee was eaten out of a can. That’s how you did it and we toured nonstop just to have our name out there somewhere. I always tell my friends how we’re one of the lucky one’s because I’ve seen so many musicians try and never get that kind of break. I think we’re just trying to be a band that could change the workload for others and make the best thing we can for everyone. We’re just a bunch of dudes trying to rock; you know what I’m saying (Laughs).

Pierce the Veil performs with Sleeping with Sirens at The Poland Spring Arena in Toms River on Thursday November 20.


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